Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Unhappy Independence Day, Nigeria

Nigeria marked her 52nd Independence Day on October 1st, which served as a reminder of the sheer courage, vim and determination that was shared by a nation to free itself from British rule. Fifty-two years ago, there was a sense of hope and togetherness; a feeling of maturity that pervaded the minds and hearts of Nigerians – a sense of pride that made them believe they were capable of handling the affairs of their country without external interference. They believed they could pave a better path for themselves than the British had to offer. Alas, those feelings were quickly extinguished by the 3 year civil war that raged on from 1967-1970 as a result of deep-seated tribal animosities.

Today, those feelings of hostility still exist and are skillfully whipped up by politicians as a means of achieving their devious ends. As a result of the constant political rhetoric and demagoguery, Nigeria remains broken and unable to move forward as a nation.  Furthermore, religious intolerance in the North, tribalism in the West and unchecked greed in the East have all conspired to ensure Nigeria remains stuck in a rut.

Nigeria is currently in a second phase of captivity - with Nigerian politicians at the helm in lieu of the British, which only makes things harder to comprehend. Why and how can you hate your country so much that you wouldn't want to see it progress? There's a general consensus that Nigeria was so much better in the 60s and 70s. Now crime rate is up, infrastructure and roads are an eyesore; the educational system is in tatters thanks to the military regime, healthcare is non-existent and power supply remains epileptic despite all the wealth generated from oil revenue. So I ask: What is it we are celebrating? Is it the internal rot Nigeria is perpetually undergoing?

Fifty-two years on and we’re still groping in the dark, while nations like Malaysia, who gained her independence three years before Nigeria, are miles and miles ahead. One might marvel at how far they've come in just fifty-five short years. For one, they've had visionary leaders who ensured that Malaysians embrace their multi-ethnic and multi-religious society for the good of the nation. Indeed, Nigeria ought to borrow a leaf or two from Malaysia. We should embrace and celebrate our differences rather than allow them to be used as political tools by unscrupulous politicians to tear us apart.

Nigeria seems to degenerate with each Independence Day, because there's a lack of political will among the political class to push for laws that would combat corruption and ameliorate the lives of ordinary Nigerians. With such nonchalance and complacency coming from lawmakers and politicians, isn't the time ripe for Nigerians to say they've had enough? Isn't it time we united and staged a Russian or French-styled revolution to overthrow the political class and set us on a course towards true balance and freedom? Only time will tell.